Next Generation Planner: October 2020
Cameo Roberson, AAMS®
Atlas Park Consulting & Finance
Business Planning Adviser, Coach and Operations Consultant
PR/Communications Director, FPA of Silicon Valley
Working from Home (WFH) is here to stay for much longer than we all anticipated. When mandatory stay-at-home orders were issued in March, many firms thought we would be back in the office by summer 2020. That time has come and gone.
Companies have avoided sweeping statements about when a full return to the office could happen as the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep through many parts of the country. Given this, firms are settling into working from home much longer than we thought.
It is clear that until a vaccine is readily available, and the number of coronavirus infections decreases, most firms will continue to embrace the WFH setup. Firms that do have a brick-and-mortar office may opt to limit the number of employees at the office at any given time. This means that you and a combination of team members will continue working from home.
Advisers can create successful client meetings by doing some planning in advance and taking a targeted approach to set yourself up for success. Your clients will thank you, appreciate your care and WFH virtual meetings will be well-executed.
Here are three tips—that if you haven’t implemented already—you can implement to position yourself well for an effective client meeting while working from home.
Get Familiar With the Technology
Meeting with a client through video conferencing software can provide a safe and convenient way to conduct meetings. To ensure the best possible experience, you should get familiar with the technology. For example, the most popular platforms out there (Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting) have training videos available on the vendors’ websites to aid in your learning curve. It is best to do this training prior to a client meeting so that you are comfortable navigating the platform. In some cases, you may be asked to help a client set up their own access and learn how to use the software.
As you ramp up and use the video conference apps and software, take precautions to safeguard your clients’ personal and financial information. Experts recommend ensuring your connection is encrypted, not sharing files via video conferencing services and creating a unique meeting ID and password for each interaction. Taking these measures will help alleviate anxiety your client may be feeling about their information being shared or discussed in a virtual environment, and you will be better prepared to answer any questions that come up.
Use an Agenda to Organize Your Meeting
Zoom fatigue and “zoomed-out” are terms now a part of everyday conversations. In general, we are spending more time in front of our computers and devices. Using an agenda can help you stay on track with the discussion topics. Identify the key points you want to discuss, leave plenty of time for Q&A and aim for a 45- to 60-minute meeting. Any more time than that and your clients may begin to lose interest and experience the fatigue I mentioned earlier.
Virtual meetings should be organized and well-planned. In general, people are now more accustomed to communication via video—whether for work, social connection with family and friends or personal business—so there is an openness to meet virtually. You can still communicate your value and your clients will thank you for being mindful of your meeting time. Organize your agenda with the most important items to cover earlier in the meeting (like a portfolio review, estate planning or another relevant update) and leave the lighter topics for the end of the meeting.
Prep Your Mind and Meeting Space Ahead of Time
Families who are homeschooling kids, managing a household, taking care of pets and trying to work face myriad challenges. I recommend hosting client meetings earlier in the day before your household is up and moving. This works great if you have clients who would enjoy an earlier meeting or clients in different time zones. Perform some stage-setting in your home office, spare bedroom or other quiet space. Remove background clutter, laundry baskets, dishes or other items you would not want your clients to see.
Daphne Jordan, CFP®, a lead adviser at Pioneer Wealth in Austin, Texas says using a headset helps to reduce background noise. Daphne is aware of her home surroundings and takes the time to make sure it is pleasant and inviting.
“Taking 15 to 20 minutes prior to the client meeting is a great way to ensure you do not have technical issues on your end,” Daphne said. “Now that meetings are virtual, clients may be connecting with you right at the start of their appointment. There is no waiting room/lobby time prior to the meeting. You also want to make sure you have created a decompression period to help them transition into the virtual meeting well.”
Using a laptop with a camera? Try to set the laptop on a platform so your camera is at eye level. I recently invested in a portable green screen called The Web Around, an oval-shaped webcam background that attaches to the back of my desk chair and provides a seamless virtual backdrop and hides the bookshelves in my office. Eliminating or minimizing visual distractions can help to keep your clients focused on you and not what is behind you. It is also good practice to continue to watch your clients for social cues—like lack of eye contact or crossed arms—to assess their comfort level. Showing care and concern will help ease any anxiety your clients may be facing and contribute to a better virtual client meeting.
Cameo Roberson, AAMS® manages a boutique RIA at Atlas Park Finance, helping individuals find their success story through entrepreneurship. Atlas Park Consulting, her practice management arm, helps advisers build infrastructure to maintain sustainable and profitable firms. Reach her at www.atlasparkco.com.